WASHINGTON (CNS): About 4 per cent of US priests ministering from 1950 to 2002 were accused of sex abuse with a minor, according to the first comprehensive national study of the issue.
The study said that 4392 clergymen were accused of abusing 10,667 people, with 75 per cent of the incidents taking place between 1960 and 1984.
Among diocesan clergy, who make up about two-thirds of American priests, 4.3 per cent were accused of abuse. Among priests in religious orders, who form the remaining third of all priests, 2.7 per cent faced accusations.
The study, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, was released in Washington on February 27. It was commissioned by the US bishops’ National Review Board, which also released its own report on the causes of the clergy sex abuse crisis that has rocked the Church for the past two years.
The review board, named by the bishops and composed of prominent lay people, is monitoring compliance with the US bishops’ policies to prevent clergy sex abuse.
According to the study, up to the end of 2002 costs related to sex abuse totalled US$573 million, with US$219 million of that covered by insurance. Sources estimate that when the 2003 costs are added the total could be around US$750 million.
The study noted that most of the reported abuse occurred between 1960 and 1990, peaking in the 1970s.
The all-lay National Review Board, formed by the bishops in their 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, issued an accompanying report on the causes and context of the abuse crisis.
It called sinfulness the overriding key to understanding and interpreting the crisis.